tv Charlie Rose Bloomberg January 1, 2014 8:00pm-9:01pm EST
i am not the real guest of honor. these are not real comedians. we are not even on a real network. [laughter] you see my brilliant opus. a scattering of miscreated, talented abnormalities. it is called "genius unscathed." >> james franco is here. he is an artist, director, and actor. he is also an author. his new book is a novel called "actors anonymous." here is the trailer for the book. >> i am the actor. >> i am the actor.
>> i am the actor. >> everyone is in me and i am in everyone. i am part of your consciousness. >> you don't think so? >> i'm here to entertain you. >> i used to care a lot about acting. now i see that you are only as good as your material. >> if your material is good, you are only as good as your director. so much dependent on others. >> i am jack nicholson, marlon brando, james stewart, steve mcqueen. >> i am nicolas cage, robert pattinson, james dean. i am norma shearer and lillian gish. >> i am garbo. >> i can give you all the feelings and accents that you
want. i will say whatever you put in front of me. i used to care about how i look, now i don't care as much. maybe it is because i am so handsome. >> i'm pleased to have james franco back at this table. the last time we saw each other was at brown university where you were attending the rhode island school of design. >> yes that's right. >> why so many things? >> good question. these are things -- i admit i do a lot of them. they are all things -- i have been interested in them as long as i have been interested in acting. i guess, they all fall under art and literature. those are my main things.
they have different forms. what i have found is that i can combine them and bring them together. the book is a great example where it is a book, a novel, and the center is acting. i suppose -- why so many? the point is -- some people think that it is about attention-getting or creating a brand. or trying to tackle as many things as possible. it is not that. it is about being able to find the best form for the different subjects that i'm interested in. in something like contemporary art -- i was at risd studying art. in that world it is common and accepted for an artist to be a painter and make videos and maybe make an album. you can write a book. that is because the art world has moved beyond.
they have moved beyond form, beyond the studio. it is a post-studio world. when an actor does it, there is skepticism. rightly so. because actors generally speaking are at least -- when you do a certain level of movie, they have a certain level of celebrity. people are skeptical about actors using their celebrity to gain access to places they wouldn't otherwise have access to. i understand all of that, but i have also done as much work and gone through as much school as anyone else. i cannot work any harder than i have been working. 1% of me does it to say to people that i'm not a fake.
back off. the other 99% of me went to school and studied all those things because i wanted to do writing, directing, and take it all as seriously as i take acting. >> do you get a pass because you are james franco? you do not have to be as good as people that devoted their lives to this? >> it goes both ways. there are some forms that are more accepted for an actor to take. people are more accepting of actors becoming directors. ben affleck and clint eastwood are examples. robert redford.
almost anyone from the 1970's who was an actor, robert deniro, warren beatty, they have all directed. most of them have directed some very good movies. when an actor writes a book, not a memoir, but a book of fiction, i would say that the knives are out. before anyone has read it. the guns are out. i wrote a book of short stories called "palo alto." it takes place in my hometown of palo alto, california. when i was a teenager. it is a book of fiction, not a memoir. it was fairly well-received. i got decent reviews.
there was still -- what i was doing at the time three or four years ago, i thought i need to keep my two worlds separate. i will not write about acting. i want people to see me as a writer. i realize that i have all this experience in the film world. over 20 years of professional work. other writers use what they know, you know. journalists will travel the world and have crazy experiences. they will write a book about that. they will not say, i will not write a book because it is about my other life. >> a great columnist writes about foreign affairs for the washington post. he is also a very good novelist. he writes books that are made into movies. >> i am sure there are more of them out there.
>> that's right. john grisham will write about lawyers. do you fear failure or not? risk-taking, it is part of you. it is in your dna. i need to do that. i realize that the fear of embarrassment can be extremely stifling. if i think back to when i was a teenager, i love movies. i love plays. i would go to san francisco and see plays. i never engaged in acting. i never tried it until i was a senior. it was a fear of embarrassment. and on the stage, a fear of a public kind of embarrassment. once that -- once i became an actor, i got over the shyness. you have to talk to a lot of
people. the second step was, if i am going to -- i was writing and doing art long before i started doing it publicly. i knew if i was going to put this book out, or if i was going to do an art show or whatever, i have to face a lot of potential criticism or skepticism or whatever. if this is what i really want to do, ok, this is the price i have to pay. it got me over that. now i -- if the only thing that is holding me back from doing something is the potential for
failure or embarrassment, then i do it. i never want that to hold me back. >> it is one thing to write a book. it is another thing to be an actor and director. those things have a connection. it is quite another thing to go to yale and say you want to be in a graduate program. their standards -- it is not just writing a novel. you have to meet high standards. you have to get admitted and then you have to stay up with i assume a certain program. otherwise their reputation is damaged. >> i'm sure some people will argue that james franco went to yale -- >> it is a lot of work for me. that is also something i had to be very clear with myself that i wanted to do it. fortunately i am past the coursework stages. >> you are writing a dissertation?
>> before i do that i have to take my oral exams. in the english department you have to read books on a variety of subjects and professors will sit around and ask you questions about them. i read a book a day. >> you have enough time for acting and directing? >> there is a lot of down time on movie sets. i use it to my potential. i read almost a book a day. >> do you speed read? >> i read pretty fast. i also listen to audio books and i put it on the double speed setting. it sounds --
>> that is a master of fine arts. >> if this were something out of a mfa program, i have heard about people so many times. get a new line. yet different approaches or a new point of view to a single -- and it becomes less productive. there's a great documentary park,the making of south strangely enough. it is talking about six days to dare. within that may write the
episode, animated him up the voices to it. six days. one of the great things trey , we haveys in there is honed it down to six days. if i spent more time, it would probably get a few percentage than not so much that it would actually pay off. havet together and it will the payoff. it will have the certain amount of energy to it. it might be a little messier but it will have vitality. that is how i feel about certain things. hone it so much and then i will start working the energy out of it.
>> this is what a writer from slate said. do you agree? does that resonate with you? >> do you agree with that? does that resonate with you? >> i think -- i feel that is a fairly common criticism. oh, this is something out of a mfa program. >> that is a master of fine arts. >> if this were something out of a mfa program, i have heard about people so many times. get a new line.
put different approaches or a new point of view to a single -- a collective of themes together. it would feel sort of like it does to be an actor in hollywood. you are viewed through many different lenses. you are viewed and read through your film roles. you are viewed through legitimate journalists who ask good questions. you are viewed through gossip magazines where all the dirt of your life is brought up. people gossip on social networking. all of these things -- you are viewed through all of these lenses. i wanted to capture that. it is a collage. >> you make fun of all of this.
in a photo taken of you kissing another guy. there was a blip of conversation about whether you were gay or not. this is how crazy celebrity is. >> what i am trying to do there is use the aesthetic of gossip blogs to make a piece of art. one of the things that i tried to do, that i can do because of my position, is push different forms of art or creativity through channels. through other public channels. if this sounds pretentious, i am sorry. it is what i do. i was on "general hospital." i played the role of an artist/murderer named franco. that was interesting because it became -- i think it was a performance art piece.
a lot of artists that i knew at the time said, "what you are doing is great. i wish i had that public forum for my art." i brought it to a museum of contemporary art in los angeles and we shot a special episode of "general hospital" at the museum of contemporary art. then it was both an episode of "general hospital" that aired on abc, but i also made a kind of weird art documentary. we took it to festivals and have now sold it to comedy central. there you see performance art going into a museum of contemporary art. then it goes to a national network and finally ends up in the frame of a weird
documentary. part of the art is the framing. and the re-framing. i am controlling it. it looks no different from the stupid photos they take of me. i am taking some ownership over it. they reprinted it on their stupid blogs. >> they reprinted it because it is you? >> i don't read the blogs anymore. i don't know what they said about it. just the fact that they had it on their page. i have my assistant go and take a screenshot of my page on their
page. i will blow that up and make a painting out of it. >> [laughter] you say, in defense of myself, this is a piece of fiction. -- >> you are writing what you know about. >> i have a professor at yale. he is a specialist in american literature between the revolutionary and civil war. he is also a highly regarded queer theorist. his first book is called "letters of the republic." he said, when i realized that i
could put my two worlds together, i generated so much energy. that is when i became michael warner. that's when i became who i am. what happened to my first book, i was very happy with it, but i was spending a lot of energy on keeping out this other part of my life. i thought, i will put them both together. i will put them both together and i think a lot of energy will be generated by it. i know that people will use this material and pull lines from it and use it against me or read it
as nonfiction. but that was the case with my other books. whether i write about acting or not, people will pull lines from my work and say that it is the real me. it is not a memoir. it is not a confessional. it is just using what i know to create an atmosphere. to create characters. >> a lot of people appear throughout it. daniel day-lewis is one. quentin tarantino is another. charlie chaplin. you are in good company. are you the common denominator there? >> they are all actors, they are
all critical actors. >> beyond actors. marlon brando and charlie chaplin. they went beyond acting. >> you are exactly right. i guess what i'm trying to do is the way of using not only the fact that they are actors, but everything that they stand for as forms. as generators of power and meaning. you can just say "chaplin" and it resonates a lot of different things. daniel day-lewis stands for a lot of different discipline to his work. on top of that, you kind of get this weird amalgamation of all the roles that he had played already.
>> let's talk about directing. you think directing is a more interesting form for you than acting. there is control, it is collaborative. >> yes. you are right. exactly. that is not to say that i don't still get a lot out of acting. but what i have found -- and here is one of the things that comes from doing multiple things, variety allows me to do the individual things better. when i was only acting professionally, i was trying to control the movies that i was acting in. i was trying to do more than my job description. i had this urge to direct. i was the actor. movies are a director's medium.
they work best when they are a director's medium. the director's overseeing the whole picture. when i understood that, i did a few things. i accepted the fact that when i sign on as an actor to a movie, my job is to help that director achieve his or her vision. not do some self-serving thing. serve the movie as the actor. that does not mean i cannot give suggestions. i want the last word to be the director's. that is one of the reasons why it is so crazy to me that i get blamed for the oscars. i was not a director of the oscars. >> you did get blamed for that. how do you treat that criticism?
do you say it is unfounded? >> i liked that there is something that people can point to and go after. they need something. i don't care. if they want to make fun of me, i don't care. i never dreamed about being a great oscars host. it's great, it's the oscars. but it does not affect me. >> does any part of you want to do it again so you can show them? >> i would do it again if seth rogen were my cohost. it would be a good show. seth and i went on the previous year and did a bit in our characters from "pineapple express." it killed. that is one of the reasons i wanted to host. i guarantee you if i hosted the oscars with seth rogen, it would kill. it would kill. >> there you go. ellen will do it next time. i want to talk about something else.
tell me about "as i lay dying," by william faulkner. you are taking someone to her final resting place. >> this way. step here. the ford is over here. [water sounds] >> wait! run back and cross the bridge and meet us on the other side. >> you are too slow. >> i don't care what we do as long as we do something. take the rope and meet us on the
other side. >> we can go across the bridge too if you want. >> come on! come on! >> watch it! >> [horses neighing] >> directing -- people say that all actors want to direct because they want to control. it is not about that for me. i am a huge believer in collaboration. the three things i like to control when i direct is the subject matter, who i work with as far as cast and crew, and how
we will tackle the subject matter. and the approach. >> in terms of the approach, final cut and the editing. >> i ultimately get final cut. once those three things are in motion, i get my crew and cast and script and we have an idea of how we are going to shoot it, then i open it up. i work with people i trust. i want them to contribute. the real joy of being a director is the creative conversations and collaborations that you get with all these creative people. as an actor, you get to have some of those conversations, but mostly they are with your director and the other actors.
as a director you get to talk to everybody. >> you get to meld it into your vision as well. >> i like to think that i have a light guiding touch. i do depend on my cinematographer to help me. i depend on my editor to put it together in a good way. one of the things that danny boyle said to me, if you are a dictatorial director, you can demand what you want. but the downside is that you must get exactly what you want. you will not open up to the possibility for other ideas to come in. ideas that you did not think about.
film is a collaborative medium. it involves so many people. if you cut off those channels and say that you are controlling every step of the way, it will be limited to your vision. >> mike nichols once said to me, this is what i expect from actors. i want them to surprise me. >> i want actors to surprise me and i want everyone on the crew to surprise me. i want the wardrobe person to come up with awesome costumes. i want the hairstyles to be good, but i don't know hairstyles. i want them to bring me the good stuff. i want every department to do that. >> tell me about "spring breakers"? >> it is my favorite movie that i have ever acted in. i think it is tough for some people to see how innovative and amazing that movie is. harmony korine, the director, he
took the film medium and he made a film based on techno-music. he structured along the lines of techno-music. the themes are fluid. the way they flow into each other and how it is edited. you will jump ahead to a scene and then go back to a scene. that is like a remixed song. the way you use his repetition of the audio, the cues, repetition of visuals, it is like a hip-hop song. i could go on. the way it is shot. the cinematographer. the use of colors and neon. as far as my contribution, it was just my favorite role. >> you want to be a doctor? >> i wanted to be bad.
they kicked me out of school and i thought that was good. some people like doing the right thing, but i like doing the wrong thing. people said i needed to change. i'm about stacking change. that's it. money. >> alien is a character -- there are four college students who go on spring break. they meet up with this guy, alien. they think they want to be set loose, to be liberated from rules that they normally live by. that is what spring break represents to them.
they regard that liberation so highly. they almost see spring break as a sort of religious rite. in comes this dark guru, alien. he brings them across the lines of civilized mores. >> my name is alien. truth be told, i am not from this planet y'all. >> why are you here? >> i saw y'all in there. you seemed like nice people. come on. why are you acting suspicious? get in. i will be your chaffeur.
>> it is a great metaphor for parallel narratives. for the way that we think now. our lives are so porous and fluid and the way that we interact with each other. the way that things -- you can draw anything on the internet. people will film absolutely anything and post it and we can look at it. how what we regard as civilized or whatever just kind of deteriorates. it dissolves. there is also a kind of beauty to that.
there is a beauty to the increased communication. the way that communities are formed on the internet. this movie captures all of it. the beauty of it, but at the same time it shows the ugliness of it. i think it is a mask. >> what about directing a movie? >> i directed a movie over two years ago. we took it to the venice film festival. >> it will be fabulous, something that my experience has never been seen before. >> a story that has never been seen before. >> i am starting to leave all the little bit. the way i want to make this film, no one will make it the way i want to make it.
i want to make it realistic. >> slick? >> realistic. >> give me realistic. i need to know what it means to you. that scares me. >> the book is nothing but beautiful, realistic images. i feel like a lot of movies are being made about or find situations and circumstances -- horrifying situations and circumstances, when they are told, they are watered down. everything is soft. you are looking at it, and it is not so horrifying anymore. >> sal mineo was a two-time oscar nominee before he was 20. he was nominated for "rebel without a cause." he played opposite james dean.
he was also nominated for "exodus." he was also a speaker. i guess he would fill arenas. he was like the justin bieber of his time. when he got older, his star faded a little. for several reasons. he sort of came out. he was not the cute, young kid anymore. he did a few movies that were controversial. but now they would be considered tame. in the mid-1970's he was struggling, but very passionate
about acting. but having a hard time, a much harder time than he did when he was younger. then he was murdered. he was stabbed to death in front of his apartment. in the heart of hollywood. right near -- if you know hollywood in los angeles, it is near la cienega. it is the center of hollywood. they didn't catch his murderer. not for a year and a half. what happened was that the gossip blogs -- not the blogs, but the gossip magazines, said that mineo was killed by his gay lover. or by a drug scandal. there was no validity in that except that he knew he was gay and partied once every now and
then. he was not an addict or anything. later a woman called police and said, my boyfriend, who is now in jail for another crime, was bragging when those news stories about sal mineo's murder came out. he was bragging that he killed him. he brought the apartment and mineo walked in at the wrong moment and the wrong time. he stabbed him. this man was convicted in mineo's murder. it was over 30 years ago. still people i talk to think that i did a movie about sal mineo -- "didn't his lover kill him?" "wasn't it drugs?" his memory is still tainted. it is not the only reason i
wanted to make the movie. there was a new biography out and i started thinking about how what i do this. if i did the story of mineo, how would i do it? i did an art piece about natalie wood. i thought it would be cool to do something about sal. i found that his situation was a great kind of tragedy. i have heard people like woody allen talk about it. the tragedy of the artist who cannot practice his art. that was sal. nowadays, you would say, "sal, go get a video camera and make your own movie." and he probably would. at that time, movies and television shows were a rarefied thing. you had to be on the inside to do it. there was an actor who is very
passionate about what he did, but could not practice it in the same way. i wanted to capture the tragedy of that. >> this book is called "actors anonymous" by james franco. what is next? >> lots. i am doing a -- i will just run down the list real quick. i adapted a book by cormac mccarthy. very dark, with necrophilia. it is very good. it will be released in february. it is based on cormac's book. it is one of his early ones. i directed a movie based on the childhood of charles bukowski.
i am hoping to premiere it at sundance in january. >> there was a movie about it, wasn't there? >> there have been a few. there was a great one with mickey rourke. oh man, i am such a jerk. matt dillon played him. matt dillon is such a handsome guy and poor charles bukowski was plagued with the worst acne ever. i felt like matt dillon was doing everything he could to capture the character, but they needed to do more to his face. he's too handsome. i do not play charles bukowski. not to say i am as handsome as matt dillon, but i do not play
him. i just directed "the sound and the fury" in mississippi. another william faulkner book. i am now filming a movie "the interview" directed by seth rogen. i am playing a tv host. [laughter] >> what you want to say about that? >> i was talking to your producer. maybe you could relate to the situation. i do not want to give too much away. i play a tv host, not of your stature. i am one of your competitors. i am a goof. the character's name is dave skyler. i get an interview with someone and the cia wants me to take him out. i have heard that you have had interviews with a lot of people. have you ever been asked to kill
anybody? >> no. [laughter] i usually have no connection before i do the interview or after. most recently assad. >> nobody asked you to kill assad? >> you couldn't say if you did. maybe you already did. you poisoned him. >> the security you will find is amazing. even when you bring your own cameras. they have very tight security. >> you didn't have any riots out there? >> no, it was not like "breaking bad." >> that is something i wanted to ask you. i think that is an interesting parallel. you have a part in the last season of breaking bad. >> yes, in the second to last
episode. >> is very important. you turn the character's path. you are interviewing walter white's old partners. in that sense, you could say, that charlie rose was using himself and looking a little silly. you are interviewing these people that all the viewers know are thieves. but you are just taking them at their word. nobody will ever doubt your integrity, but i think it is sort of similar in a way to the way that i use "james franco" in the book. that "james franco" does weird things in life, that i think i would not do. >> i do it because, first of all, i get paid. i like everyone in the film. i did it because i was a huge fan of the show.
and whenever i do any of this, and i have done a number of times, i understand acting better. i understand who you are. i understand the experience of what you have to do and how hard it is. i know a lot of very good directors who say, like robert altman, who had a huge respect for actors, "it is damn hard to act." >> let me ask you this. you are very good on it but you play yourself. when you do that, i just did a movie called "this is the end" with seth rogen and we all played named versions of ourselves. when you play charlie rose, there must be something that people ask you to do that you will not do because you think that charlie rose would never do that. >> i do not think of it as that.
i think of it is fine. i would not do something because charlie rose would not do it. people say you should not do this or that because who you are would not do that in real life. i am not super conscious of that. robert redford once asked me to do a part, but not play myself. in the end, i was not very good. i did a test run. in the end, i cannot do this because, and he was also acting and directing in the film, he said, in the end people will see you and not the character. you are not that good that people will not you. they will see you and not the character. you are making that leap so that people do not see "charlie rose" they wanted to see the character. when i approach this, it was scripted.
i love everybody who was there. i tried to be as good as i could and make it as real as i could. it is not real for me to read a script. it is real for me to talk to you the way i am. i do not know what i will say next. in a script you know what you will say next and you have to make it real. you have to say your lines as if you had just bought them. that is a learning experience. >> i agree. it can be difficult. you think it would be easy for people to play themselves if they are not trained as actors, but it is not. you are asking them to say scripted lines, but in life they are not saying scripted lines. >> the other thing to say about all of this is that i have more than one job. i admire what you do. you are out there pushing the
edges of things. you are not holding yourself down and saying you are the best. you are just saying, this is something i want to do and try. because i can, i will. >> i also feel like if i held myself -- it goes with the embarrassment thing -- if i held myself back because i am not the best at everything i do, i would not do anything. as a creative person, you need to accept the level that you are at. you need to say, if this is a book i can write right now, just write it. it will speak to certain people. it does not have to be in the can and every time. >> in the end, you regret what you did not do, not what you
did. even if you fall on your face. you can get up and try again. >> i agree. >> i do not think people are as critical of failure as you might imagine. people love someone who gets off the ground and says, i can win. they love someone who loses and then comes back and wins the next year. this is called "actors anonymous: a novel." all the movies we have been talking about. you will see them. thank you for joining us. james franco, for the hour. ♪ >> with the right ingredients,